Mastering the Photoshop Toolbox


Master the Photoshop toolbox. Begin by knowing the basics.

I am writing this tutorial to try to provide an easy way to get familiar with the Photoshop toolbox without overwhelming you with technobable.

Level: Intermediate

Photoshop Version: CS2 (Can apply to Earlier versions up to Photoshop 7)

How to:

This is a multi-part tutorial on the Photoshop toolbox. I was trying to think of what the most important thing to know in Photoshop and, I didn’t really come up with anything, but it made me think of the toolbox as the solid base for learning photoshop for real. 

There are those that say they “know photoshop” but are they pro, can they move really fast and do what they want to do? Well, learning the toolbox is a great start to becoming a Photoshop speed demon.

First of all is: What is the toolbox? The toolbox is the window that contains the buttons that control what your mouse does, it also contains the buttons most used when working in photoshop.

I will now list and show each tool from the Photoshop toolbox and what they do. Then I will tell you how to master the toolbox. Note: the toolbox shown is Photoshop CS 2. But learning it will be very helpful, this would be true from Photoshop 7 and up.

NOTE: If you only see the first part of the toolbox tutorial, do not worry, I am working hard at adding more each day. There is a lot to cover.

I am sure you never thought this was part of the toolbox, clicking on the feather will take you to the photoshop website.     

This is the Marquee tool. The tool consists of a number of different ways of making selections. By selection I mean where you can select a part of an image and do something with it, like a filter, a color adjustment, etc,.     

You will notice there are 4 different types of Marquee tool. The first is the Rectangular Marquee Tool. This allows you to make rectangular selections. The same follows with the Elliptical Marquee Tool, it selects a circular area. The way you use this tool is click and hold down the mouse and drag. There is a lot more to cover about selections. I will write a tutorial on this at some time later.

This is the Move Tool, this is the tool you use to move objects around in Photoshop. It is the most commonly used tool. Use it by clicking and dragging items on the canvas.     

This is the Lasso tool. There are 3 different types of Lasso Tool. The regular Lasso Tool allows you to make a selection by dragging and drawing a shape with the mouse. The polygonal Lasso Tool allows you to click and then move your mouse and then click again at a different point, which you can do to create any kind of polygonal shape (a closed object with straight sides). The Magnetic Lasso Tool is special, you start out by clicking it once and then drag your mouse in any direction, the Magnetic Lasso Tool will follow the edges of an image (Where to different colors are contrasted) without you having to do anything.     

This is the Magic Wand. Sounds cool, well, it sort of is. The magic wand allows you to click in different areas of an image and select related colors to where you clicked. For example if you had an image of a person against a white background, you could click the white background and it would select the area around the person.     

This is the crop tool. This tool allows you to crop or cut the image to a different size. You can also use it to make the image larger. Click and drag the mouse to select a crop area. You can adjust it by dragging the handles (The little square boxes on the corners and sides that allow you to change its size).     

This is the slice tool. You use it for creating slices. Sounds repetetive unless you know what a slice is. A slice is a piece of an image. You would use this tool when you want to save the image as different pieces. It is normally used when designing we pages.      

To use the slice tool all you have to do is drag around an area of the canvas. The area you drag around is now a slice. You can later export these slices as individual images. 

The slice select tool allows you to edit existing slices, to use this tool you just click on the slice and resize it by dragging the handles that show up.

These are the healing tools. The first one is called the “Spot Healing Brush Tool” it allows you to clean up imperfections or blemishes in an area of color. Let’s say you have a person and they have a red spot on their face or a zit, then you could click on the zit with the spot healing brush and make it disappear. Make sure that the brush is somewhat larger than the blemish its self.      

The healing brush tool is the same as the spot healing brush tool in that it allows you to clean up a blemish or an imperfection, the only difference is that you have to select an area of the image you want it to use to replace the blemish. For example if you wanted to remove a spot on a car, you would go to an area of the car that is nice and “alt/option+click” the area, you could then click on the blemish and it should disappear.

The patch tool allows you to cover up larger parts of the image than the healing brushes. This is one of my favorite tools when it comes to taking something out of an image or removing some area of an image. All you have to do is to make a selection with any selection tool — or the patch tool (You would select the area you want to be replaced), then you would select the patch tool and drag the selection to a part of the image you would want to use to replace the old part of the image. When you let go, the area that was selected will be blended with the area you dragged the selection to. If you are cloning out a large part of an image, you don’t want to just use this tool. I will be writing a tutorial on cloning out images.

The red eye tool is for removing red eye. Too small functionality for a whole Photoshop tool. But here is how you use it: You just click it on the part of the eye that is red and the red eye will be handled, if you need to you might need to adjust the pupil size to get best results.

These are the painting tools — so to say, they allow you to add color to an image like you are using a brush or a pencil.     

The Brush tool has been in Photoshop for a long time. You use it by dragging it across the image. Do not underestimate the power of this tool. Some artists use this tool only to create stunning images. I will be writing a further tutorial on using brushes in Photoshop.

The pencil tool is for drawing lines. It is mainly used for drawing rough lines, as apposed to the brush which draws smooth edges.

The color replacement tool is a very useful tool for image correction. You use it like a regular brush, but it allows you to change the colors of the area you are painting. There are many settings for this tool which allow you to efficiently change the color of a specific part of an image without ruing the image itself.

These are the clone tools. Hailed as the best tool for removing parts of an image. This is not the case, these tools are best used in conjunction with the patch tool to create realistic effects from artificially removed parts of an image.     

The clone stamp tool allows you to take a part of an image and paint it into a different part. Hold down Alt/Option and click on the area of the image you want to use to paint with. Then start painting in the area you want to remove. By selecting “aligned” in the tool settings bar allows your set part of the image to copy from change as you paint. I will also be writing a tutorial on this as this is a special tool.

The pattern stamp tool allows you to paint an image by using a pattern. You just select a pattern to use and start painting.

These are the history brush tools, they allow you to paint back to some time in the images history. These tools can be very useful at times.     

To use the history brush tool select the part of the history you want to paint back to. (You do this by clicking the history brush icon to the left of the history state) and then start painting, the same image from history will be painted from the point that is selected.

The art history brush does the same thing as the history brush except, you can set paint like options, so that when you paint back the history, it looks like it was painted — or whatever visual effect you choose.

These are the eraser tools, they allow you to remove parts of an image. The most useful tool out of these is the regular eraser.

To use the eraser tool, just select a brush and start dragging around the are of the image to want to be erased.

The Background Eraser tool allows you to erase an area of color that is in the middle of the brush area without erasing parts that are not similar to the color in the middle of the brush. This may be confusing, here is an example: You have a soccer ball on grass and you want to cut the soccer ball out with the background eraser tool. So, you take the background eraser and start to drag around the edges of the ball, ensuring that the center of the brush is in the green grass part. This will erase the grass and leave the soccer ball untouched.

The magic eraser tool is like the magic wand, but instead of creating a selection, it erases. Get familiar with the magic wand and this tool will make sense. As a note, I find it to be a bad tool for quality cutouts.

These are fill tools. Used for filling areas of an image with color. 

The gradient tool allows you to drag over an area of an image and create a gradient. You use the gradient maker tool to create the gradient and then you click and drag on the image to create the gradient.

The Paint Bucket Tool is like the magic wand, but instead of selecting the image, it paints the image (Adds color)

OK, I am a busy man, but I will continue to add more to this tutorial. Someone told me they were reading it and they like it a lot. Feel free to write any comments. If you feel something is hard to understand or needs more clarification, comment here and I will try and fix it. More coming soon.

– Zach